We are Word-Whores, and the notion of selling ourselves, ahem, I mean our work, is an undeniable part of the job. It's probably high on the list of my weaknesses.
What is promo?
1.) Promo is the stuff that tells people about your book.
Yeah...I've bought the bookmarks that display the covers, the postcards with the covers, the memorable business cards, blah, blah, blah. I've looked at hundreds of options of things to give away. It's not a fulfilling process. There are so many useless and boring promotional items. There are fewer options that are items folks might hold onto. Cost is always a factor. All of it--ALL OF IT--has one major flaw. It still has to be distributed. Yup, using these items to create awareness of your product means you have to get it into the hands of people who most likely would be interested in what you have to sell.
I've sent these items to be stuffed into the goody-bags issued to folks with the convention badges. I've left them on tables at conventions. I've even handed them out to folks stuck standing in long, boring lines at conventions...you know, people unable to escape, and so bored they dare not refuse.
2.) Promo is you being in the public eye.
There's no one more passionate about what you've written than you. So get out there! Oh, yeah. Traveling eats a budget faster than teenage boys scarf down the groceries.
Yeah I'm on the big Facebook. I occasionally sent out a tweet. I have a website. I've attended conventions. I've sat on panels. I've been a moderator. I've given classes. I've had readings and signings. I've done interviews on blogs both stateside and abroad (some where my answers were translated into other languages) and on radio; I've done brief on camera bits at author events where local news crews visited. I've even been the opening speaker at a Pagan/Witch's Ball.
Meeting folks, making friends, shaking hands, and learning about the business is an invaluable asset that makes showing up to the conventions more of an investment than an expense.
3.) It's your actual product, the BOOK.
I've given away books as prizes, holding contests on fb or blogs. I've sent out reviewer copies. I've mailed books to be part of a con raffle. I've simply given books away.
Good reviews are fantastic. Word of mouth recommendations are invaluable. But first you have to have a product that someone liked well enough they wanted to tell others about it. But you have to WRITE A GOOD BOOK TO START WITH.
It's not about the cover. It's not about the blurbs. It's not about the ads your publisher may or may not place.
It's about the substance you put on the pages, and how readers react and respond. Get them excited and they'll do all the promo for you. Readers are incredibly awesome in this way. :)